Set Your Sails: A Port Royale 2 Interview
Pirates! meets The Patrician. That's the most efficent way to describe Port Royale. The English version of the game 'shipped' a few months ago. About one year after the game's original release in Germany. There hasn't been an official (English) announcement of it yet, but a sequel to the business/trading sim is already in the development at Ascaron. I hope the hobby captains among you will enjoy this little scoop as Daniel Dumont, project leader on Port Royale 1&2, talks about new features and changes made in the upcoming game. Read on if you want to know whether the internationalization of Port Royale 2 will be handled faster this time or not.
Q: Who are you and what's your job at Ascaron?
Daniel Dumont: My name is Daniel Dumont and I am Project Manager / Lead Designer.
Q: How long has Port Royale 2 been in the production so far? How many people are working on it?
DD: We are working on the title for 1 year now. At the moment, we have 7 programmers, 2 lead testers, an external graphics studio, a music composer and a sound technician working on the project.
Q: Port Royale 2 will feature a revamped trading/wares system. What aspects are you going to change about it?
DD: We will have special production rules for normal towns and governor's towns. Also, several goods can only be produced incertain regions. We limited the number of goods which can be produced in a town.
Q: What other gameplay elements will you modify/upgrade?
DD: We upgraded every part of the game. Pirates now have real hideouts, military convoys are more active, better AI in seabattles, new missions...
Q: It was said that experienced captains under your command can make more decisions on their own now.
DD: You can assign a number of towns a captain can sail to. It is up to him to decide what to trade then. However, you still can set prices and goods to be traded the same way it was done in Port Royale if you want to.
Q: Will there be anything changed about the the multiplayer part of the game?
DD: Yep - we will not include a multiplayer part. We saw that only a few players used it - mainly because Port Royale is not a typical multiplayer game as a game session takes too long. We decided to spend more time on other features instead. I am sorry for those players who will really miss it...
Q: What about the technical aspects of Port Royale 2?
DD: We still have 2D buildings and 3D-real-time seabattles. As for the buildings, they are still much nicer and more detailed in pre-rendered-2D. However, trees, grounds, streets are 3D now and look much better. We also added completely new water with transparency effects and an underwater world.
Q: Ascaron also promises that the user interface will be streamlined. How so?
DD: The interface was completely reworked. It is more colorful now and has much more graphics with all these new icons and symbols. We also reduced texts and the size of the interface and we found a much better arrangement of all the elements. Also, we switched to a widescreen interface now, with all the elements in the bottom instead of having them placed on the right side. This looks more open.
Q: Why did it take almost a year until the English version of Port Royale was available? Is the English version of the sequel going to be released faster this time?
DD: Ascaron has been growing steadily for a number of years now, building upon a solid and very loyal German following. The obvious next step was to branch out into international territories, which coincided with Ascaron's setting up of a dedicated UK office to oversee international releases.
The different language releases of Port Royale involved a lot of work in both localization, play testing and creation of workable procedures. There are thousands of strings within Port Royale and it was extremely important to ensure these were right and appeared in their correct context throughout the game. Of course, we also had to secure distribution, press and marketing activities to launch the product, as well as making sure that certain software and updates were in place for each language version. Multiply this by the number of languages Port Royale was being localized into (approximately 20 languages now!) and you will get the idea that it is quite a large task!
Our customers will see almost simultaneous releases of Tortuga and Patrician III (October 2003) and, of course, Sacred (Q1, 2004) showing that we have learned from our experiences and proves how much progress we have made in producing high quality versions in numerous languages.
Q: The German version of Port Royale sold quite well. Are you satisfied with the sales performance of the UK and US versions?
DD: Considering that Ascaron as a whole is not a mainstream name in the games industry outside of Germany, then yes, we arequite happy with the initial sales performance for Port Royale, which has really been our first world-wide international release. It has given us a fantastic first-step into making Ascaron a well-known, reputable and reliable brand internationally.
Q: Port Royale 2 is expected to ship some time in early 2004 in Germany. You were also involved in the development of the recently finished Tortuga: Pirates of the New World. If you look further into the future, what projects or ideas do you want to work on afterwards?
DD: WeÃ‚'ve just started to discuss what comes next. It will have to do with trading. However, we are not sure if trading will be the main element or not. Unfortunately, I can't tell you more at the moment.
Q: You've covered the Hanse setting (Patrician series) as well as the Caribbean scenario (Port Royale 1&2). Are you going to develop a space trading-sim someday?
DD: I would be interested to work on it. Would you buy it?
Q: I sure wouldn't mind taking a look at that one. Last but not least: What games are you playing/looking forward to?
DD: The last game I finished was the Gothic II Add-on, and I was mostly waiting for Half-Life 2. As it won't be released this year, I think I am mostly waiting for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and XÃ‚Â² - The Threat.
Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions!
Head over to Ascaron's website if you want to know more about the company. A brief look at Port Royale 2 can be found at the recently launched mini site of the game. The German version is currently on track for a Q1/2004 release. More information about Ascaron's action-RPG Sacred can be found here. And don't forget to take a look at Elysium's Port Royale impressions if you haven't done that yet.